How do you value your education?
Do you look to what you earned, the certificate or diploma or degree hanging on the wall, or do you value what you learned, what you know, what you have retained?
I don't value the diploma on the wall as much as my Alma-mater would like me to. I frankly regret the student loans that I am still paying off more than 15 years after the fact.
I remember my father telling me that college would "teach me how to think." This is from a man who was self-taught his entire life, from dismantling and repairing clocks as a child, to building electric motors and radios as a teen, to a brief stint in the Navy as a radio guy, to a job in a radio station, to CB and HAM radio and his career as a microwave communications technician. So even he, who was essentially a C-average student from a rural poor family and who only could afford one semester in college, he so valued higher education that he indoctrinated me in its value.
My aunt, who was a teacher at the time, encouraged me to study Engineering. She was adamant that with a degree, you would be able to "write your own ticket." Foolish me, I listened, and signed on the line. Four years after I sought the path to writing my own ticket, the U.S. entered the toughest job market since the Depression.
Seth Godin warns of a coming meltdown in higher education. Tuition is rising faster than the potential income one would get if they graduated with a degree - so there are degree mills out there which work around this problem for those with gaps in their moral armor. Thank you Scott Adams:
But that raises a great question, why would someone work so hard to get those letters on their resume? Is there discrimination in the workforce against people without those letters? Why, yes there is! Without those magical letters your resume will not even be looked at by a recruiter. You not only need the key words (Project Manager, Finish Carpenter, Phlebotomist) but also the key letters: BA, BS, MA, MS, MBA or even PhD.
These letters say that you spent four or eight or twelve years of your life at an institution. It means you could afford to spend those years out of the workforce, through your amazing scholarships or generous relatives or bountiful student loans. These letters may even say that you can conform, you will fit in, you can ease into the culture of the new company because you could conform to the artificial society which is a College or University.
These letters don't say that you can do a job well - but they open a door that will be closed in your face if you don't have those letters. In Deschooling Society, Ivan Illich calls for a law "protecting the citizen from being disqualified by anything in his career in school" in order to prevent "discrimination in hiring, voting, or admission to centers of learning based on previous attendance at some curriculum."
Imagine that, you wouldn't need those letters at the end of your resume or after your name in order to be good at a job! Lest you think this opens the door to incompetence, the author does qualify his statement to say that "this...would not exclude performance tests of competence for a function or role, but would remove the present absurd discrimination in favor of the person who learns a given skill with the largest expenditure of public funds or what is equally likely has been able to obtain a diploma which has no relation to any useful skill or job."
So with the letters, you aren't an expert? If I have an accounting degree, can't I go off and be an accountant somewhere? Maybe, yes. But how well you do that job is more dependent on your internship / senior project / professor and peers than the actual degree.
I work with a person who has a PhD in Economics. He spends his days using MS Excel and MS Access to wrangle data from disparate systems, building business reports. He's not running an Investment firm or whatever one is supposed to do with that degree, he's doing a job that some minimally skilled person with a few Microsoft courses under their belt and some good reporting writing skills could do.
Godin says "we won't be fooled again," but I know many in my generation are the helicopter parents pushing their kids up the great cattle-chute which is higher education. Why would otherwise rational people commit their lives and their children to a system which is failing? Maybe because, in my next post, School is a Religion!!!